John Howard's stubborn and unctuous denial of his responsibilty in committing Australian troops to the assault on Iraq should be held in contempt by every thinking Australian. Howard decided to support President George W. Bush, notwithstanding that there was never any linkage between the attacks of 11 September 2001 in New York and the regime of Saddam Hussein.
The singular cause to which John Howard committed Australia, by his own admission, was the presence of so-called weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Saddam Hussein. There was never any evidence that such weapons existed and the fact was established following the exhaustive UN investigation led by Hans Blix.
Bob Hawke and I committed forces to the first Iraq war in 1991, because Saddam Hussein had invaded another country, Kuwait, and because the war against Iraq was to be conducted under a UN mandate. The objective of that mandate was to check the Hussein regime. It was not about regime change.
Could you imagine the woebetidings of Howard and the Liberal Party, if it had been Hawke or I who had committed Australia to such an un-mandated assault on another country? We would never have heard the end of it. The Liberals would have been wringing their hands for decades.
The incompetent management of Iraq following the invasion, fractured that country and with it, Syria and the region around it, casting millions adrift from their lives and homes. A sea of refugees. Yet Howard has no shame of it. And no responsibility.
During his prime ministership, his party was advertising that people should be aware of the risk of terrorism. And invited people to pin such official warnings on their fridges with magnets.
We need more than magnets now.
Howard has visited on Australia the whole spectre of terrorism, through his craven and ill-judged support of the United States and its invasion.
Australia was perhaps the most successful multicultural society in the world, including the settlement of a large Muslim population.
John Howard put the torch to that.
Now we live perpetually with the spectre of terrorism and racial strife, visited upon us by his prejudices and lack of judgement.
In the face of the Chilcot Report, John Howard should atone for his actions and those of his government. He should, at least, hang his head in shame.
Paul Keating was Prime Minister of Australia from 1991 to 1996.This statement was issued in Sydney on 7 July 2016.